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Commandments etched in stone on church's lawn

September 10, 2000

Commandments etched in stone on church's lawn



By TARA REILLY / Staff Writer

photo: KEVIN G. GILBERT / staff photographer

Ten CommandmentsThey may be a block away from where they were proposed to be displayed, but the Ten Commandments spread the same message, say members of The Presbyterian Church of Hagerstown.

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Pastor John W. Ailstock on Sunday morning unveiled two granite tablets containing the Commandments, which are located on the front lawn of the church on the corner of West Washington and South Prospect streets. Each tablet weighs 500 pounds.

Parishioners said the placement of the Commandments was in response to four failed attempts throughout the 1990s by other local residents to put the tablets in front of the Washington County Courthouse.

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"It made a lot of sense," Ailstock said, referring to the original plan for the placement of the Commandments. "The judicial system is indeed founded on the Ten Commandments. Unfortunately, we have laws in this country that prohibit where this type of thing can be placed."

But the American Civil Liberties Union threatened to sue, citing the county would violate the First Amendment if the Commandments were erected in front of a public building.

That's when church members decided to take the issue into their own hands.

"This is our response to the situation," said Nancy Myers, chairwoman of the membership-outreach committee. "Here we are a block away, and we did it."

Frank Erck, clerk of the session, said the church began the plan for its own tablets while at a leadership retreat about a year and a half ago.

"Somebody said if they can't go (at the courthouse), let's put them in front of our church," Erck said.

After putting the Commandments into a easily readable format, Erck said the church asked Darner Memorials, now Hammaker and Darner Memorials, to make the tablets. The project cost $2,000. The Commandments were delivered last Wednesday.

Myers said a spotlight will be placed in front of the tablets so they can be seen at night.

Ailstock unveiled the Commandments before a crowd of about 100 parishioners, who gathered around the lawn of the church and applauded the new addition.

"These Commandments are a source of hope, nurture, guidance and strength," Ailstock said.

"Hopefully, it will be a reminder of God's rule for how you live your life," Erck said. "Whether you are a Christian or not, the important thing is that the Commandments are certainly rules and values that will make you a happy person."

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